The impact of neonatologists' religiosity and spirituality on health care delivery for high-risk neonates

Pamela K. Donohue, Renee D. Boss, Susan W. Aucott, Elizabeth A. Keene, Paula Teague

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: Ethical decision-making regarding life-sustaining therapies (LST) for high-risk neonates can be challenging for both neonatologists and parents. Parents depend on neonatologists to interpret complex information, identify critical opportunities for decision-making, and present options for care. How neonatologists' belief systems affect care delivery for critically ill newborns is unexplored. Objective: To characterize the relationship between neonatologists' religiosity or spirituality and the provision of intensive care services for high-risk newborns. Methods: Neonatologists practicing at an American Academy of Pediatrics Neonatal-Perinatal Training Program were surveyed about their religious/spiritual beliefs, provision of LST for critically ill neonates, and communication with families. Results: Two hundred ninety-eight neonatologists responded to the survey; 66.4% consider themselves very or moderately spiritual, 40.8% very or moderately religious. In response to a hypothetical prenatal consultation for a fetus at 23 1/7 weeks gestation, 96.3% agreed that the physician has a moral obligation to present all options to parents, including the provision of comfort care. More than 95% had no objection to withholding or withdrawing LST, with religion playing almost no part in these decisions. 38% of participants reported no objection to resuscitating an infant with trisomy 13 or 18; 40% of these neonatologists considered themselves very/moderately religious, 60% slightly/not at all religious. Eighty-nine neonatologists reported that their religious beliefs influence their medical practice. These physicians had similar responses as those not influenced by religion. Conclusion: For the majority of neonatologists participating in this study, differences in critical care practice cannot be attributed to personal religious or spiritual views.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1219-1224
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of palliative medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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